Judge’s doubts on A14 actions

THE Highways Agency may have failed to follow its own consultation guidelines when it asked for public comment a year ago on £490million plans to improve the A14 between Ellington and Fen Ditton, an Appeal Court judge has decided. Lord Justice Moses had b

THE Highways Agency may have failed to follow its own consultation guidelines when it asked for public comment a year ago on £490million plans to improve the A14 between Ellington and Fen Ditton, an Appeal Court judge has decided.

Lord Justice Moses had been asked by Offord solicitor Nita Tinn to overturn a High Court decision which refused judicial review of the consultation.

"The judge rightly declined to identify any promise to consult other than on the route preferred by the highways authority," Lord Justice Moses ruled. But he was concerned the agency's internal procedures manual had not been complied with and granted leave to appeal.

Mrs Tinn believes the agency, in addition to consulting on two options for a new southern bypass of Huntingdon, crossing the Great Ouse north of Offord Cluny, should have asked for public comments on a route nearer Godmanchester.

The Offord campaigners acknowledge that the new road is needed, but say the public should have been given its say on the indicative alignment included in the 2001 report of the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study.

Mrs Tinn has until June 8 to provide the court with further evidence while the Highways Agency has a further 14 days to submit its case to the court. But, with the Court of Appeal taking its summer recess the one-day hearing is unlikely to be listed before the autumn.

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The Highways Agency acknowledged this week it had received notification of the appeal and was seeking legal advice. A spokesman would not be drawn on whether work would continue towards identifying a preferred contractor for the scheme.

If the appeal were to succeed, the agency might decide to re-run the consultation.

The Highways Agency had argued in the High Court - and the judge agreed - that, since there was no prospect of building the road nearer Godmanchester, because it would pass over an unsettled landfill site, there was no sense in consulting on it.

Two options were offered: a six-lane bypass with the existing A14 through Godmanchester and Huntingdon de-trunked, and a four-lane bypass with the existing road retained.

Terry Hayward, former chairman of Buckden Parish Council, believes there is no reason, other than additional cost, why the present road should not be retained with the new road still being built as dual three-lane.

Retaining the existing viaduct would cause mayhem with Huntingdonshire District Council's plans for the future expansion of the town. Demolishing the viaduct over the railway line at Huntingdon station is key to new measures that would reduce traffic on the ring road and open up the town centre to expansion.

Mr Hayward said: "What is important is that all these questions should be answered now otherwise there is a risk that the public inquiry will be prolonged."

n Cambridgeshire County Council yesterday (Tuesday) backed the plan to take down the Huntingdon viaduct.

The cabinet heard how the plans could improve access into and out of Huntingdon, making it a more attractive place for people to visit and shop as well as improving conditions outside the town.

If agreed, the work would be carried out by the Highways Agency as part of the A14 improvements. Removing the viaduct would reduce heavy through traffic and encourage drivers to use the new A14 southern bypass.

If nothing is done, the viaduct would have to undergo massive multi-million pound repairs and, if left, would encourage heavy traffic to continue to use Huntingdon.

It is expected that people and businesses will be asked their views on this as part of the wider consultation due to be carried out on the vision for Huntingdon later this year, the council said.

* Exclusive Hunts Post coverage of the proposals for the A14 viaducts should be "commended for everyone to read," Councillor Nick Guyatt, executive councillor for environment and transport at HDC, told cabinet colleagues last week.

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